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The Choice.

1 If Heaven the grateful Liberty would give,
2 That I might chuse my Method how to live;
3 And all those Hours propitious Fate should lend,
4 In blissful Ease, and Satisfaction spend.
5 Near some fair Town, I'd have a private Seat.
6 Built Uniform, not little, nor too great:
7 Better if on a rising Ground it stood;
8 On this side Fields, on that a neighb'ring Wood,
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9 It should within, no other Things contain,
10 But what were Useful, Necessary, Plain:
11 Methinks 'tis Nauseous, and I'd ne'er endure
12 The needless Pomp of Gaudy Furniture.
13 A little Garden, grateful to the Eye,
14 And a Cool Rivulet run murm'ring by:
15 On whose delicious Banks a stately Row
16 Of Shady Limes, or Sycamores should grow.
17 At th' End of which a silent Study plac'd,
18 Shou'd be with all the Noblest Authors Grac'd.
19 Horace, and Virgil, in whose mighty Lines
20 Immortal Wit, and Solid Learning shines.
21 Sharp Juvenal, and Am'rous Ovid too,
22 Who all the Turns of Love's soft Passion knew;
23 He that with Judgment reads his charming Lines
24 In which strong Art, with stronger Nature joins,
25 Must grant his Fancy does the best Excel;
26 His Thoughts so tender, and Exprest so well.
27 With all those Moderns, Men of steady Sense,
28 Esteem'd for Learning, and for Eloquence.
29 In some of these, as Fancy should Advise,
30 I'd always take my Morning Exercise:
31 For sure no Minutes bring us more Content,
32 Than those in Pleasing, Useful Studies spent.
33 I'd have a Clear, and Competent Estate,
34 That I might Live Gentilely, but not Great.
35 As much as I could moderately spend,
36 A little more, sometimes t' Oblige a Friend.
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37 Nor should the Sons of Poverty Repine
38 Too much at Fortune, they should Taste of Mine;
39 And all that Objects of true Pity were
40 Should be Reliev'd with what my Wants could spare.
41 For that, our Maker has too largely giv'n,
42 Should be return'd, in Gratitude to Heaven.
43 A frugal Plenty should my Table spread;
44 With Healthy, not Luxurious Dishes Fed:
45 Enough to Satisfy, and something more
46 To Feed the Stranger, and the Neighb'ring Poor.
47 Strong Meat indulges Vice, and Pamp'ring Food
48 Creates Diseases, and inflames the Blood.
49 But what's sufficient to make Nature strong,
50 And the bright Lamp of Life continue long,
51 I'd freely take, and as I did Possess,
52 The Bounteous Author of my Plenty Bless.
53 I'd have a little Vault, but always stor'd
54 With the best Wines, each Vintage could afford.
55 Wine whets the Wit, improves its Native Force,
56 And gives a pleasant Flavour to Discourse:
57 By making all our Spirits Debonair,
58 Throws off the Lees, the Sediment of Care.
59 But as the greatest Blessing Heaven lends,
60 May be Debauch'd, and serve Ignoble Ends:
61 So, but too oft, the Grapes refreshing Juice
62 Does many Mischievous Effects produce,
63 My House should no such rude Disorders know,
64 As from high Drinking consequently flow.
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65 Nor would I use what was so kindly giv'n,
66 To the Dishonour of indulgent Heaven.
67 If any Neighbour came, he should be free,
68 Us'd with Respect, and not uneasy be,
69 In my Retreat, or to himself or me.
70 What Freedom; Prudence, and right Reason give,
71 All Men may with Impunity receive:
72 But the least swerving from their Rule's too much;
73 For what's forbidden us, 'tis Death to touch.
74 That Life might be more comfortable yet,
75 And all my Joys refin'd, sincere, and great;
76 I'd chuse two Friends, whose Company would be
77 A great Advance to my Felicity.
78 Well born, of Humours suited to my own;
79 Discreet, and Men, as well as Books, have known.
80 Brave, gen'rous, witty, and exactly free
81 From loose Behaviour, or Formality.
82 Airy, and prudent, merry, but not light;
83 Quick in discerning, and in judging right.
84 Secret they should be, faithful to their Trust;
85 In reas'ning cool, strong, temperate, and just.
86 Obliging, open, without huffing, brave,
87 Brisk in gay Talking, and in sober, grave.
88 Close in Dispute, but not tenacious, try'd
89 By solid Reason, and let that decide.
90 Not prone to Lust, Revenge, or envious Hate;
91 Nor busy Medlers with Intrigues of State.
92 Strangers to Slander, and sworn Foes to Spight:
93 Not quarrelsome, but stout enough to fight.
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94 Loyal, and pious, Friends to Cæsar, true
95 As dying Martyrs, to their Maker too.
96 In their Society, I could not miss
97 A permanent, sincere, substantial Bliss.
98 Would bounteous Heaven once more indulge, I'd choose
99 (For who would so much Satisfaction loose,
100 As witty Nymphs, in Conversation, give,)
101 Near some obliging, modest Fair to live;
102 For there's that Sweetness in a Female Mind,
103 Which in a Man's we cannot hope to find:
104 That by a secret, but a pow'rful Art,
105 Winds up the Springs of Life, and does impart
106 Fresh Vital Heat, to the transported Heart.
107 I'd have her Reason all her Passions sway;
108 Easy in Company, in private gay:
109 Coy to a Fop, to the deserving free,
110 Still constant to her self, and just to me.
111 A Soul she should have, for great Actions fit;
112 Prudence, and Wisdom to direct her Wit:
113 Courage to look bold Danger in the Face,
114 No Fear, but only to be proud, or base:
115 Quick to advise, by an Emergence prest,
116 To give good Counsel, or to take the best.
117 I'd have th' Expression of her Thoughts be such,
118 She might not seem reserv'd, nor talk too much;
119 That shews a want of Judgment and of Sense:
120 More than enough is but Impertinence.
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121 Her Conduct Regular, her Mirth Refin'd,
122 Civil to Strangers, to her Neighbours kind.
123 Averse to Vanity, Revenge, and Pride,
124 In all the Methods of Deceit untry'd.
125 So faithful to her Friend, and good to all,
126 No Censure might upon her Actions fall:
127 Then would e'en Envy be compell'd to say,
128 She goes the least of Woman-kind astray.
129 To this Fair Creature I'd sometimes retire,
130 Her Conversation would new Joys inspire;
131 Give Life an Edge so keen, no surly Care
132 Would venture to Assault my Soul, or dare
133 Near my Retreat to hide one secret Snare.
134 But so Divine, so Noble a Repast
135 I'd seldom, and with Moderation, taste.
136 For Highest Cordials all their Virtue loose,
137 By a too frequent, and too bold an Use:
138 And what would Cheer the Spirits in Distress;
139 Ruins our Health, when taken to Excess.
140 I'd be concern'd in no Litigious Jar,
141 Belov'd by all, not vainly Popular,
142 Whate'er Assistance I had Pow'r to bring
143 T'Oblige my Country, or to Serve my King,
144 Whene'er they Call'd, I'd readily afford
145 My Tongue, my Pen, my Counsel, or my Sword.
146 Law Suits I'd shun, with as much studious Care,
147 As I would Dens where hungry Lions are:
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148 And rather put up Injuries; than be
149 A Plague to him, who'd be a Plague to me.
150 I value Quiet at a Price too great,
151 To give for my Revenge so dear a Rate:
152 For what do we by all our Bustle gain,
153 But counterfeit Delight, for real Pain?
154 If Heaven a Date of many Years would give,
155 Thus I'd in Pleasure, Ease, and Plenty live.
156 And as I near approach'd the Verge of Life,
157 Some kind Relation, (for I'd have no Wife)
158 Should take upon him all my [Worldly] Care,
159 While I did for a better State prepare.
160 Then I'd not be with any Trouble vex'd;
161 Nor have the Ev'ning of my Days perplex'd.
162 But by a silent, and a peaceful Death,
163 Without a Sigh, resign my Aged Breath:
164 And when committed to the Dust, I'd have
165 Few Tears, but Friendly dropt into my Grave.
166 Then would my Exit so propitious be;
167 All Men would wish to Live, and Dye, like Me.


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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): The Choice.
Author: John Pomfret
Themes: retirement; happiness; contentment
Genres: heroic couplet

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Source edition

Pomfret, John, 1667-1702. Poems upon Several Occasions. By the Reverend Mr. John Pomfret [poems only]. The Sixth Edition, Corrected. With some Account Of his Life and Writings. To which are added, His Remains. London: printed for D. Brown without Temple Bar, J. Walthoe in the Temple Cloysters, A. Bettesworth, and E. Taylor, in Pater-Noster-Row, and J. Hooke in Fleetstreet, 1724, pp. 1-7. [12], 132, vi, 17p. (ESTC N21233)

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Typography, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been cautiously modernized. The source of the text is given and all significant editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. This ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.

Secondary literature

  • Bernatovich, Bernard V. A Study of John Pomfret's 'The Choice': The Sources, the Appreciation, the Art, and the Influence of One of the Most Popular Poems During the Eighteenth Century. Unpub. doct. diss. Loyola Univ. of Chicago, 1971. Web. 17 Nov. 2016. http://ecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2162&context=luc_diss
  • Kallich, Martin. 'The Choice' by John Pomfret: A Modern Criticism. Enlightenment Essays 6 (1975): 12-18. Print.